Doctor Who Review: The Zygon Inversion

Everything’s terrible, the Zygon rebels have won, how’s the Doctor going to save the day now?

I am catching up with Doctor Who – reviews of Sleep No More and Face the Raven are in the pipeline.

Cast and Crew

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Jenna Coleman as Clara
Ingrid Oliver as Osgood
Jemma Redgrave as Kate
Nicholas Asbury as Etoine
Aidan Cook, Tom Wilton and Jack Parker as Zygons
Nicholas Briggs as Zygon voices

Written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat
Produced by Peter Bennett
Directed by Daniel Nettheim


Clara has been captured and duplicated by a Zygon who wants to start a war by forcing all the Zygons living on Earth to reveal themselves. To do that she needs to find the “Osgood Box” and discover what is inside it.

High Points

The Doctor gives an epic rant about war.

The title turns out to be hugely appropriate around the time the plot turns itself inside out.

I now understand my low point about the Doctor being “unusually passive” from the previous episode.


Low Points

What happened to Kate needed more time. She clearly did something pretty awesome and we didn’t get to see it.

The Scores

Originality: There’s more new and surprising elements in the plot than in the first part, which, being a first part, turns out to just be a setup for the grand conclusion. Again I’m reminded of the Sylvester McCoy era – the idea of the Doctor as a grand schemer isn’t a new one, although it might be for people who’ve only watched the revived series. 4/6.

Actually even less effects work than the previous episode, at least not effects I could see. Some carefully-chosen direction ensures that not too many shots have to have two of the same actor in, thus saving presumably much time and money, but when it does happen it’s basically flawless. Zygon costumes still look awful, but that’s probably something I should take off the Production score. 4/6.

The story continues treating one of its three threads with a lack of attention (Kate’s), but the Doctor’s and Clara’s get much better developed and of course it all comes together to a grand finale. A grand finale featuring a most epic rant from the Doctor. We’re building on elements from the 50th anniversary and the end of the Time War – fittingly, since this story follows directly on from a dangling plot thread in that – and really getting to see the Doctor’s position on the utter futility of war. Not that it’s new, of course. Again, I’m reminded of the Seventh Doctor – his speech to Morgase in Battlefield about the nature of a war involving nuclear weapons. That wasn’t quite as pacifistic, but you have to tune these things to your audience. 5/6.

The acting again mostly good. Coleman and Capaldi are the real stars here – Coleman playing two characters, including a lengthy conversation with herself, with great skill. Capaldi once more proves himself a superb choice for the Doctor with such energy, passion and raw emotional pain being brought to the screen exactly where it’s most needed. 5/6.

My emotional response was better than last week’s, but this might be because of how much the progression of the story agrees with my own prevailing morality. Not so much the usual fear for the characters or engagement in what’s going to happen as being utterly carried away with and personally affirmed by the Doctor’s speech, and the ongoing total moral conviction of Osgood. Perhaps if you don’t agree as thoroughly your mileage would vary. And still, this is not bringing me to heights of passion it’s just making me feel good. 4/6.

Happily, the production is much smoother and more refined than the first part. 4/6.

Overall a satisfying conclusion to the first part. It may ultimately be considered a little pointless, but I suspect that might be the entire point. There’s no subtlety here on the moral points: war is wrong, and the Doctor’s going to do his level best to stop you ever starting one – both for the sake of those who die, and for the sake of those who have to live with the consequences. 5/6.

In total, The Zygon Inversion receives 31/42.

3 replies on “Doctor Who Review: The Zygon Inversion”

  1. I really liked this episode. Especially the conclusion. This is how we should solve problems in The Doctor’s universe; we try REALLY hard to avoid violence, and even if it happens we don’t let it derail us.

    And it wasn’t a Deus Ex Machina solution. It was a Thinky-Talky solution. I really, really appreciate that.

    Also, this and it’s first part let Jenna Coleman actually act. That, too, was fantastic and very well done.

  2. Best.
    Hands down.

    To me, it’s right up there with Eleven’s Doctor’s Wife.

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